Most horror cognoscenti consider John Carpenter's "Halloween" to be the flame that ignited the American slasher craze, but I disagree. Four years prior in 1974, Bob Clark unleashed what is not only the true original American slasher (though it was shot and financed in Canada), but one of the best horror films ever made - "Black Christmas". When I watched it for the first time (roughly 10 years ago), it immediately struck my as the clear blueprint for the beloved slasher genre. While the Italian Giallo films of the 60's and 70's were certainly the cause, "Black Christmas" is "patient zero". It's not only a perfect horror film, it's a perfect film in every way - regardless of genre. Jaded audiences of today may laugh at the fashions and bemoan the lack of on-screen violence, but that's narrow minded. Like a Beethoven symphony, it strikes all of the perfect notes, works all of our emotions, and gets the most out of everything it offers. While Clark went on to do other, more famous films (like 1982's "A Christmas Story", ironically), this is his masterpiece. To back up my theory, I've decided to list my "Top 25 Reasons Why I Love 'Black Christmas' (1974)". "Top" 25 because there are more than that, but these are the "essential" reasons why I love it so much.
And Christmas is December 25th. See what I did there?
1) It actually feels like Christmas. The house, the decorations, the clothes everyone is wearing, their respective moods. The Holidays have never felt more genuine in any film I've ever seen than here.
2) The obscene phone calls. So fucking creepy. Guttural. Infantile. Puerile. Unforgettably upsetting and genuinely frightening.
3) Margot Kidder as "Barb". From the first moment she bounces down the stairs of the house (obviously sans bra) to her eventual demise, she's the most genuine character in the film. Funny, sexy, sad, and charming - she's the best friend we all wish we had. She steals every scene she's in.
4) Clare's death. Rarely has a first murder in a horror film set the tone so effectively. Brutal and shocking without spilling one drop of blood.
5) Mrs. Mac drinking her hidden bottles of Straight Sherry. " 'B' is for booze..."
6) Jess's (Olivia Hussey) sweater. The design resembles two hands put up in desperate protection from an attack, doesn't it?
7) The attic window where Clare's body sits in a rocking chair. Still? The police never find it (to our knowledge, at least).
8) The scene where Mrs. Mac shows Clare's father his missing daughter's bedroom. Great (and needed) comic relief.
9) "Fellatio 2-0-8-8-0. Fellatio - it's a new exchange. F-E." Hilarious.
10) The look on Mrs. Mac's face when she sees Clare's body in the attic. True, genuine terror.
11) Chris's (Art Hindle) fur coat. Worn like a true Caucasian Canadian playa'.
12) Peter's (Keir Dullea) progressive mental deterioration. Makes him the perfect "red herring" right 'til the very end.
13) John fucking Saxon. Every film is better with him in it.
14) Barb's asthma attack jump scare. I still jump every time it happens.
15) The timing of the carolers coming to the door. It distracts from the true horror going on upstairs.
16) Death by crystal unicorn. Dario Argento himself couldn't have directed a more bravura murder...in his prime!
17) "It's just like having a wart removed!" 18) That Clark acutally shows the calls being traced at the telephone company rather than making the audience take it on faith.Makes it more realistic and, therefore, more frightening.
19) ...and it's revealed that the calls are coming from inside the house! A full 5 years before "When a Stranger Calls"!
20) Jennings. The cop parked in his squad outside of the sorority house is founded with his throat slashed when cops arrive on the scene. (A bit of a plot hole, but easily forgivable)
21) The look of genuine terror on Jess's face when Officer Nash tells her where the calls are coming from.22) The shot where Jess sees the killer looking at her through a crack in the door. And the chase that follows, of course.
23) The fact that every single character is fleshed-out, human, and genuinely likeable. A rarity in not just horror films, but all movies and entertainment.
24) The phone that just keeps ringing. And ringing. And ringing. And ringing. And ringing. And ringing... It may well still be ringing ambiguously.
25) The fact that the killer is never fully unveiled and his motive never explained. Truly horrifying.
If you have yet to see "Black Christmas" and you consider yourself a true genre aficionado, do it now. It's one of the most competently made, well cast, influential films the genre has to offer. A true horror classic, it deserves to be made a permanent part of your collection and held in the highest esteem. There would most certainly be no "Halloween" without it.
The remake is pretty damn good, too (though the polar opposite of this film)!
RESISTANCE Pro, LLC.